Ladies: Raise a glass, and then SMASH IT

So, last week felt like it had about 57 days in it, am I right? Regardless of your affiliation, you’re probably glad the election is behind us. If you were unfazed by it, well, then I would ask for a referral to your doctor so I can get my hands on whatever magic calming drug they’re prescribing these days.

This week’s blog topic was originally sustainability and its importance to us here at Sip Wines. Don’t worry, I’ll write about that soon (and lest you fear it might be a dry topic, let me assure you that I plan to positively soak it in wit and flair). But in light of the election results, I felt compelled to go back to the topic of women in the wine industry.

This election is a great day for women. Period.

I honestly mean that, from a global female perspective. We just elected a woman of color to the second-highest office in the country. The first woman to EVER hold that office. Do you know how amazing it was to hold my six-year-old daughter in my lap and watch Kamala Harris tell little girls that they can be and do anything? Not only that: this election saw the most women elected to Congress ever, from both sides of the aisle. Red, blue, purple, wherever you fall on the spectrum: our daughters can look at Vice President-elect Harris and see their own potential, in a world that still beats them down far too often. And that is a victory for all of us.

Want to know what else really stood out to me? The impact that Stacey Abrams had on the election. ICYMI, in 2018, Stacey Abrams became the first Black woman to run for governor—in ANY state (although she ran in Georgia). She lost, but instead of walking away, she spent the next two years registering over 800,000 people to vote. AND, she mobilized Black voters in a way that few others have, particularly Black women. Ms. Abrams lifted women up, and played a huge role in lifting one woman all the way to the top.

That’s where the women of wine come into this story: they’re supporting each other, and Sip Wines wants to help.

Strong women lift each other up.

The funny thing is that this oft-quoted, inspirational statement is really just another way of saying that networks matter, but the idea of “networks” usually makes people cringe as they recall forced small talk over lukewarm finger food and bad wine. I think people often conflate the concept of a “network” with the act of “networking,” which makes most of us feel awkward and uncomfortable. (As a former career counselor, I must tell you that both are important, and perhaps someday I will have the opportunity to debunk the idea that all networking is painful.) In fact, networks have been a crucial part of the rise of women in the wine industry in recent years.

Here’s the truth: it’s a rare woman who shatters a glass ceiling on her own. Actually, it’s rare for glass ceilings to shatter at all; most of them are slowly cracked by many women bashing their heads against them. (Sound painful? Trust me, it is.) There are absolutely trailblazers and pioneers who achieve success through sheer determination, but I’m certain that most “successful” women wouldn’t characterize themselves that way.

I’ve been fortunate to speak with several women wine leaders featured at Sip Wines, in particular about their experiences as women in the industry, and a strong shared perspective emerged. One winery owner spoke of her many positive experiences collaborating with other women in the wine business, even as business competitors. Another owner emphasized her commitment to mentoring through diversity and inclusion committees, recognizing that a role model can make all the difference. Yet another told me that the mission of her wine label is a call to action for other women, and a signal that they are not alone. In each of those conversations, I heard a similar sentiment: these women attribute much of their individual success to the efforts and support of other women. Not necessarily literally—I have no idea if they know each other—but broadly, through shared mentoring and support.

Networks are snowballs.
Wine networks are tasty snowballs.
It’s science.

Actually, it really is science, sort of.  Metcalfe’s Law is a phenomenon that describes the exponential growth potential of a network. No, I didn’t know about it before I wrote this blog. No, I can’t really explain it. Read this instead. It’s interesting. Point being, once a network starts to grow, it can take off like a snowball downhill. And the internet has increased not only a network’s capacity for growth, but even more so its speed--kind of like a blizzard, if we’re continuing the snow metaphor/simile.

In the days before internet (and omg there really were those days and you have to watch this video of the Today Show trying to understand internet) it was seriously difficult to find each other; if you didn’t already have connections, it was a prohibitively long road to the top. Networks tended to be smaller and self-perpetuating (for a variety of other reasons too, obviously, like privilege, nepotism, colonialism, etc.), and wine was no exception.

Up until the mid-20th century, the wine world was occupied almost entirely by men. Women were excluded in much the same ways as other industries, through traditions and laws that barred their entry and forced them to remain behind the scenes. There were a few exceptions, the most well-known probably being Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, aka “the Widow Clicquot,” aka Veuve Clicquot, the famous champagne. Women like Clicquot did make an independent name for themselves, but their entree into the wine business was invariably through a husband and/or lineage. Their success didn't represent access, but rather a particular alignment of stars.

Portrait of Madame Clicquot and her great-granddaughter Anne de Mortemart-Rochechouart
Portrait of Madame Clicquot and her great-granddaughter Anne de Mortemart-Rochechouart

Even a few decades ago, women breaking into the industry walked a pretty lonely road. One of the owners I spoke with knew almost no other women in the industry early in her career; when asked by an interviewer to identify a mentor in her career, she couldn’t name a single one.  Another owner described her efforts to network at events attended almost entirely by men, most of whom retained rather antiquated views of the industry and the place of women therein, and how isolating and frustrating she found the experience.

Fortunately for us (and for wine), these and other women persevered, and we’re now at the tipping point for women in the industry: that moment when the right combination of factors comes together to spark a movement.

One of the most influential factors is, of course, the internet. It’s just so much easier to find each other (for better and worse). Research is fast and simple, and social media connects us across continents and generations. For the first time, women can find each other and build networks quickly and easily; one label owner felt a seismic shift in the presence of women in wine as recently as 2019, which she attributes entirely to social media and the powerful joining of female voices it enabled. It’s incredible what a difference it can make to know that you’re not alone.

The call isn't out there at all. It's inside us.

If you don't get that reference, then you clearly do not have a daughter obsessed with Moana. (I'm jealous.) Anyway, the internet has truly been an amazing tool… but it’s just a tool. An influential factor, yes, but not decisive. The true spark has been the women, and their allies, using that tool to support each other and lift each other up. Social media can amplify voices, but it’s the people behind those voices that really matter. Sip Wines wants to be a part of this. That’s why we’ve created a platform where we can highlight the amazing women who have worked incredibly hard to bring their wine visions to life, in an industry that didn’t always welcome them--and in a time, now, when a global crisis keeps us apart.

Sip Wines is our tool to connect you with these women. Let’s use it together to raise these women up, by supporting their businesses and enjoying their wines. And trust me, you’ll enjoy these wines.

Want to learn more about our women wine leaders? Follow us this week for spotlights on some of our women-led winery partners!

The author's daughter picking grapes (and probably singing Moana at the same time)


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